Throughout Christian Hackenberg's junior season at Penn State and on into his preparations for the 2016 NFL, there has been a common criticism.
Not of Hackenberg, per se.
But of the system he played in — and in some not so subtle ways — the coaches he played under the last two seasons.
“Once he gets out of that situation — which is not a good situation at Penn State — scouts and GMs and coaches will drool over Christian Hackenberg,” ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said last September.
During the NFL Scouting Combine in February, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock hit Hackenberg with a “buyer beware” tag and said that the idea of selecting him in the draft would be “scary.”
Well, Hackenberg has spent the last two-plus months in California training under quarterback guru (and former NFL QB) Jordan Palmer. And after Hackenberg turned in a strong performance at PSU Pro Day Thursday, Palmer appeared to go out of his way NOT to throw the Nittany Lion staff under the bus regarding its handling of Hackenberg.
This came off the simple question of where Hackenberg has shown the most improvement:
“Consistent mechanics,” Palmer said. “This has nothing to do with a coaching staff anywhere. When you’re a college quarterback, you’ve got school, you’ve got practice, you’ve got weights, you’ve got study hall. You have all of these things, so focusing on mechanics becomes this tiny little sliver in your pie of what your day is.
“This has nothing to do with a coaching staff anywhere. When you’re a college quarterback, you’ve got school, you’ve got practice, you’ve got weights, you’ve got study hall. You have all of these things, so focusing on mechanics becomes this tiny little sliver in your pie of what your day is.”
“Christian’s been living 300 yards from my house … for two and a half months and we’ve been spending six days a week together,” he added. “So when mechanics become a giant piece of the pie, it allows you to do it consistently. So it has nothing to do with did he do it right before, did he do it wrong before or anything like that. He just didn’t do it very much, because no college quarterbacks have that much time to focus on mechanics specifically.
“Because we did have that time, I think he looks really efficient and really on balance and he threw the ball consistently (at Pro Day),” Palmer concluded.
Asked specifically if Hackenberg had been properly developed at Penn State — or not — Palmer pointed to former Oregon State star Sean Mannion as the most NFL-ready QB he had ever trained. Mannion spent four years in a pro offense and his father is a coach, Palmer said. So the 2015 third-round pick of the then-St. Louis Rams was in a class by himself.
“The next tier is enough — is he enough, has he learned enough to be able to translate very quickly?” Palmer said. “And Christian absolutely has. I think he understands it.”
Palmer’s brother, Carson, is the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals. So Hackenberg learned the Arizona offense, and he and Jordan Palmer spent hours per day breaking things down as the Cards went through the NFL playoffs.
“So I think I can gauge how quickly these guys can learn it compared to other people,” Palmer said. “(Hackenberg is) smart enough. He has enough functional football intelligence.”